Thesis Proposal Guidelines

Thesis Proposal Guidelines

The purpose of JOURN 8100 Thesis Seminar is the preparation of an acceptable thesis proposal. The instructor will provide assistance in writing the proposal. In addition, the following guidelines are provided to assist students in proposal preparation. Students register for JOURN 8100 when they are in their last semester of course work or when all course work has been completed. The thesis proposal must be complete and approved before registering for thesis credits.

Each proposal should include the following components:

Purpose of the Study

Explain the purpose of the study. The statement of purpose should be clear and concise. A time-honored way to begin is: The purpose of this study is…. The statement of purpose should be written not only for a subject matter specialist in the area of study, but also for an informed, intelligent layman. Such a person frequently will serve as a member of the student‘s thesis committee. Context should be provided to make clear the purpose of the thesis, but the purpose, not the background, of the study should be emphasized. The terms should be comprehensible, and the scope of the study should be well drawn.

Part of the purpose of the study description is an opportunity for students to draw together ideas gleaned from their curriculum and to link these ideas with the planned thesis. This should be more than a reiteration of what was accomplished in each of the classes. Rather, students are expected to use ideas and theories from their course work and show how that information has prepared them to study the planned thesis topic.


State the significance of the project, explaining how it will:

  • Refine existing knowledge.
  • Revise existing knowledge.
  • Extend existing knowledge.

Any one of the rationales above is sufficient to justify the worthiness of the proposed study. The study must contribute to knowledge, defined here as what an informed scholar in the field of study knows. The student is not just learning but creating scholarship.

Literature Review

Demonstrate familiarity with materials relevant to the study, i.e., primary and secondary source materials. The proposal should make it clear that the student understands this material not only in its detail, its separate parts, but also that s/he has an overview, an understanding of perspectives, research thrusts, major and minor viewpoints and the like. The literature review should be a combination of annotated bibliography for sources most closely identified with the project and narrative summary for other relevant materials.


State plainly the source material – both primary and secondary – is to be used. Explain how the study uses the literature discussed in the literature review section or departs from it. Discuss access to sources in terms of availability, costs (traveling, purchasing, photocopying); time needed to reach, study, collate and analyze information; competency to deal with material (need to translate or to acquire such skills as database searching), etc.

Research Design

Explain how the study will be done, i.e. the method(s) and instrument(s) used to achieve the purpose. This is where the study is operationalized. The student must convince the proposal reader that the means presented will produce the end aspired to in the statement of purpose. The research design may be presented informally (in terms of a question and how it will be answered) or formally, in terms of a hypothesis and how it will be tested. The student should make clear all the steps to be taken to answer the question or to test the hypothesis; the logic of any sampling, time-bracketing, selection of people or places or things to be examined; omissions; possible errors; problems or risks; the employment of any special instruments or techniques; paradigms to be adopted, altered or rejected; controls (if any); and, in general, the data expected to be found (and their reliability). Thesis students are required to use a methodology for which they have taken a course. For example, if the chosen methodology utilizes focus groups, the student should have taken JOURN 8008 Qualitative Research Methods.

Outline and Title of Completed Project

Indicate the shape and the name to be given your scholarship when it is presented to the world. In general, the study should be put together approximately in this order:

  • Introduction (Context).
  • Purpose.
  • Rationale.
  • Research design.
  • Presentation of findings.
  • Summary and conclusions.

The title must be descriptive; i.e. readers should be able to tell what the study is about from the title it is given. The chapter outline should be indicated.


Discuss matters such as costs, travel plans, publication prospects and so forth in this section. Include a copy of the request to the Institutional Review Board and, if possible, a copy of the approval by that body. A copy of the IRB request MUST accompany the thesis proposal when it is submitted to the academic adviser. The IRB approval can be submitted later if necessary. Students are required to submit BOTH a copy of the IRB request and the IRB approval to the academic adviser.

Once the proposal has been written and approved, the student should prepare the request for thesis committee form that appoints the student‘s committee. This form must be on file in the MU Graduate School, 210 Jesse, to be eligible for graduation.